No one knows where they came from. There was no hailing port on their 48 foot ketch “Mystic Sun”. Even the boat itself was mystery. It must have arrived Sunday night while we slept. Kudos to the crew for navigating in such a wicked fog, and for docking without waking my wife, a light sleeper with a keen sense of hearing. In the morning we awoke and they were there in front of us.
The Mystic Sun has precious little free space on the above decks. It’s packed with all kinds of stuff. From our vantage point behind them, I saw dozens of items. Some that belong on a boat, some that might belong on a boat, and some that have no business being on a boat at all.
I can only imagine what it’s like inside. I sipped coffee and wondered about that and about Mystic Sun’s sailors. I didn’t have to wonder very long. Through the diffused morning sunlight, partially obscured by the rustic wooden pilings of the old dock, I watched as three of them appeared in the haze. Females. Fairly young. Like feral cats they preened and stretched in the warm sunlight. One spotted me and disappeared like smoke. Then the other two disappeared as well. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Did I just see that? Naw. I need more coffee. That’s all. Yes. At that time I believed there were only three, although I could’ve been mistaken, given the nature of all true ferals, who shun the light and skulk in the corners of existence, not so much out of fear, but more for survival in a fearsome world.
I ducked low on my seat so as not to be seen. One of them soon appeared on deck. She had white blonde hair, cropped close except for the bangs, which swiped below yellowish brown eyebrows, like the young actress in Kevin Costner’s movie “Waterworld”. She quickly peeled a small orange citrus fruit, possibly a tangerine, fed on it, and tossed the rinds into the fast-moving river. They floated by me down river in the quick current. Fascinated, I went outside onto the dock for closer observation, and maybe to say hi, but was startled by the fact that suddenly there was no longer anybody on the deck, and there’s unintelligible sounds emanating from the inside the old sailboat. It’s like a chant that repeats over and over. I couldn’t make out any specific language.
“What’s that noise”? the XO asked from inside our boat.
“It’s them”, I whispered. “The feral girls”, my body blocking my pointing finger.
“Yes. Girls. Living in the wilds of the waterways. Look”.
Suddenly, another feral emerged from the companionway. Taller than the first, with short dark hair, dark eyes, shorts and navy blue tee-shirt. A quick hop and she was off the boat, bare feet padding down the dock. Just before she reached the turn, she faded away like heat waves coming off a hot black-top road. Or did she simply turn the corner out of sight? I couldn’t be sure.
As I refilled my coffee cup, another climbed the stairs into the daylight. She’s older, possibly 15, with dirty blonde pony-tailed hair, faded skinny jeans, and off white Keds. She sat aft on the ornate wooden railing. After peering into a white cell phone for a solid 10 minutes, she grabbed three tangerines and expertly juggled them to the delight of her younger feral sis, who was climbing up the companionway stairs.
At first I thought there were only three, but as I sat sipping java, a confirmed sighting of a fourth occurred. This one had long dark hair and wore a long dark overcoat. She possessed the air of an established older teenager. By her interaction with the other ferals, and the way they followed her movements, I deduced that she was the pack leader. With one swift, agile movement, she leapt off the boat and onto the dock. I heard no sound when her feet hit the old wood, and like her pack-mate, she walked down the dock and faded away in a haze a microsecond before the turn. I know I saw that.
“You’re letting your imagination run wild again”, the XO said.
“If you look at them too long they disappear. Like smoke”.
“What? They’re just living on their boat, like tons of people”.
“I know what I saw”, I said.
The XO didn’t look skeptical; in fact, she laughed. We often make up stories about people we see and don’t know anything about. It’s simply a fun way to pass the time, but I wonder. Where did they come from? Where are they going? How are they surviving?
Later that day, shortly after sunset, when the moon began its slow glowing rise, we heard the strangest sounds. The same rhythmic chanting over and over that increased in volume, louder and louder. It was impossible to ignore. Suddenly there was absolute silence, equally impossible to ignore. When we heard a large watery sound like that of a person falling off a boat, we jumped up to investigate. But there was nothing there, no splashing, no wake, and no Mystic Sun. There was no evidence of anything, just the dim moonlight reflecting off the grey brackish waters of the Dog River. SOCOBO 12/9/17